‘I’ve lived a remarkable life. I’m not afraid’


EVERETT June 14: In a local radio station in downtown Everett, old friends and new gathered to say goodbye to Charlye Parker, an icon and pioneer in the radio industry for over 50 years.

Parker grew up in the Midwest in the 50s when Rock n Roll was being tested over the radio waves. She graduated from Mercy High School in Omaha, where she was told to forget about being a DJ she said.

“Girls were simply not used on the air, and they never would be. The closest I would get to radio was as a station receptionist or a secretary or a bookkeeper and that was good enough,” Parker wrote.

Parker announced on air Friday morning that she was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer over Memorial Day weekend. She has been the weekend morning host for KXA radio for 12 years, a classic country radio station in downtown Everett.

“It’s been an incredible life; nobody gets to do this. I’m 80 years old and I was coming in on the weekend,” Parker said.

At KTRC, a small station in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1973, Parker became one of the first women on the air in the U.S. After a year, she moved to Albuquerque to be on KRZY country radio. When she transferred, she said that Program Directors didn’t know what to do with her. They told her to “try and sound sexy, sweet and cute,” she said.

She knew people wouldn’t go for the sweet and innocent act, so she decided to be herself without pretenses. And she thrived.

During this time in the early 70’s she worked as a photojournalist for the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association. During her travels, she discovered the Pacific Northwest.

One day during the ‘70s she drove from Tacoma traveling north on 1-5, and applied to every radio station she came across. She said most of the programmers wouldn’t even talk to her. Finally, when she reached Everett, Program Director Tom Lewis at KWYZ not only treated her like a professional but hired her on the spot.

Lewis promoted her as “Snohomish County’s First Lady of Country.”

In 1976 she went back to Albuquerque, and while she did enjoy it there, she missed the Pacific Northwest’s tall trees, the array of greens, the bluest skies, and the misty rain. During a vacation with a friend in Everett, she found herself in front of KMPS Country radio. She dug out an old demo tape of hers buried under the back seat in the car, put it in her pocket, and walked inside.

She caught Ron Norwood, a Program Director from Spokane, on his way out and was too scared to ask for a job so she asked for a tour of the station instead.

They talked for hours about country, rodeo, dogs and nature. She gave him her demo tape and her number and that night, he hired her.

“Charlye has been a mentor and an inspiration to me since I moved to 94.1 KMPS in 1982! It was a full-circle moment when she joined our team at Classic Country KXA,” KXA Programming Consultant Becky Brenner said.

During Fridays show, Brenner, KXA hosts Anita Moffett and Heidi May, said that Charlye is the reason they are where they are today.

Poster inside the KXA studio, June 14, 2024.

From 1977 to 1988 she took her chance at programming. At that time there we no such thing as a female program director in radio. She was successful as a program director but after a while, she missed the fun and carefree nature of hosting. So, she took her chance at being a morning radio host, again a feat no woman had taken before at the time.

When asked if she ever felt discouraged breaking into the radio industry as a woman Parker said, “In the beginning, yes. If I didn’t do it, it would be a long time until someone did.”

Parker’s friend Jaye Albright got her a position at KHAY Radio a station in Ventura, California. She worked there for 21 years as the morning radio host. She and her co-host Jon Cowsill were rated the number-one radio station out of 52 others in the area for multiple years.

In 2012, Parker retired and returned to the North Sound, when Classic Country KXA caught her eye. She loved the station and the people and couldn’t pass the opportunity up she said.

“Charlye is one of the most relatable, fun, and caring personalities you will ever hear on the radio. Her show is all about the music and the listeners and she will be missed,” Brenner said.

Truly drawn to nature, Parker enjoys the great outdoors and a river out back with the sounds of a distant train whistle. And of course, classic country music in the air.

One listener said, “I’ll miss hearing you on the AM radio during my weekend morning drives out to hikes. Thanks for 60 years of music, Charlye.”

As she left the radio station she said, “Life is wonderful. I’ve lived a remarkable life, and I am not afraid.”